Victoria Lamb has tackled a period of history with very little factual detail, Queen Elizabeth I’s visi...moreOriginally posted to my blog, Once Upon A Time.
Victoria Lamb has tackled a period of history with very little factual detail, Queen Elizabeth I’s visit to Kenilworth Castle in the Summer of 1575, and produced The Queen’s Secret. A novel that seeks to join the few facts there are with speculation and her own creations and she has done a fantastic job with it.
The Queen’s Secret is a novel of forbidden romance, an assassination plot, and the innocent young girl at the heart of it all, Lucy Morgan. Lucy is a young black court entertainer who encounters much racism because of her skin colour, constantly pushed to the back and hidden so as not to ‘frighten her majesty’. This is in fact how she meets Tom, also black, one of Lord Leicester’s stable boys. They are fascinated by each other, and it is Tom she is with when Leicester asks her to sing for the Queen, to become a part of her inner circle.
I felt as though the novel had a slightly slow start but knowing me that could easily have been because I needed to get my head around the lack of werewolves and magic. It had been a long time since I had read a historical fiction novel and the last one I read was a Philippa Gregory which really lacked in flow. Well, once The Queen’s Secret got going, I couldn’t help but compare it. Victoria has none of those yawnworthy information dumps Philippa Gregory seems to love so much and has such a great flow to her prose that I barely noticed I was reading a novel with multiple perspectives. And her descriptions bring Kenilworth Castle to life and set the mood for the period perfectly.
One of these character perspectives we get access to, aside from Lucy’s of course, is Elizabeth’s. History has immortalised her as a great Queen, so it’s easy to forget that she was also human. Victoria reminds us that she was a woman with needs and wants, that she wasn’t heartless, she did love, but she was also jealous with a short temper just like her father even though she strived to be different from him. She has been painted here as a selfish, churlish character who was generally dislikeable and I really liked this way of looking at her.
Robert (Lord Leicester) and Lettice’s forbidden romance is very sweet, but I also found their sneaking around despite everybody else to be a bit selfish so it was a dilemma for me whether to side with Lettice or disregard her as a cheater. It took me a while to decide whether I thought Lettice was just a selfish piece of work or a woman in life looking for something good, but by the end I’d quite firmly landed on her side. Her husband mistreats her horribly and she’s desperately in love with Robert, while the Queen just comes across as insecure and spoiled. Maybe you’ll think differently when you read it. And then there’s Robert with his vastly extravagant and colourful royal welcome, inviting along top performers and putting on shows and fireworks displays in an attempt to woo the Queen once and for all to marry him, yet quite pompously, he continues sneaking around with Lettice Knollys and dragging poor Lucy in the middle. He’s quite the rogue.
Then of course we have the assassination plot afoot that Goodluck, Lucy’s delightful guardian and spy for the crown, is trying to help Elizabeth’s spymaster uncover and stop. This plays off the romance very nicely, giving the story more meat. Lucy finds herself involved in this too when she’s just trying to stay on everybody’s good side but becoming completely overwhelmed because there is so much more going on in the Tudor courts than she ever could have imagined, much of it quite dangerous when all she wanted to do was sing. She may be young, but she’s not stupid. While her decisions might not always be right, she believes in them. She’s a strong character that I’m eager to see more of.
If you enjoy a good historical novel, particularly you Tudor history lovers out there, I’m positive that The Queen’s Secret is one for you.(less)
My first thought when I’d heard about this book back when Victoria first followed me on Twitter was: Oh god I need this book in my life! I love the Tu...moreMy first thought when I’d heard about this book back when Victoria first followed me on Twitter was: Oh god I need this book in my life! I love the Tudor history period, and I love Witchy things. Combine the two and you have a book that is more or less designed for my personal enjoyment. Seconded? Then you perhaps don’t need to read any more before going straight off to your chosen book store to purchase.
Witchstruck follows the first person narrative of a young witch called Meg Lytton as she goes into service as maid to the Princess Elizabeth while she remains imprisoned within the ruined palace of Woodstock. The first thing I noticed in this book was Elizabeth being somehow involved in the witchcraft, not on an active level, but she’s definitely interested which is a dangerous stance for an imprisoned royal to take. It immediately added a sense of impending danger to the novel which makes you want to keep reading. The second thing was the atmosphere Victoria has created. It’s immersive and the only way I can really describe it is kind of like a dark fog creating a sense of mystery and foreboding. I felt as though I was well within my comfort zone reading Witchstruck and I loved that about it.
I have to admit to not enjoying the ending as much as the beginning and I can’t even put my finger on why, it just fell flat for me. It could be because, after all, this is a young adult novel and I usually prefer adult fiction, or maybe because I was only able to read it in small chunks while my dad was visiting and would have read a lot better in one sitting. I don’t really know but it’s worth making your own mind up. I also noticed a couple of inconsistencies throughout though they didn’t affect my enjoyment of Witchstruck at all because at the end of the day it’s a historical fantasy, but I don’t believe Tudor witches would have known who Hecate was with her being an ancient Greek goddess, and “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” wasn’t in the Bible until the 1600′s when the King James Bible came into being.
Even so, there is a lot going on so the novel doesn’t get boring, there’s a lot of foreboding as danger is constantly imminent and Victoria has done a fantastic job of portraying how dark these times were. Not just for accused witches but also for non-Catholics and rebels to the crown. She has encaptured the spirit of this alternate history fantastically and I urge you to give Witchstruck a read.(less)
Hal goes through life tormented by apparitions that nobody but him sees. As a youth, his grandiosity is d...moreDestined for greatness, tormented by demons..
Hal goes through life tormented by apparitions that nobody but him sees. As a youth, his grandiosity is dazzling, during the height of his prowess as a warrior he is bold and inspiring, only to drop off later in life after a near-fatal accident renders him unable to be as active as he once was only for him to become a sad shell of his former self.. This is the life story of Henry VIII.
Well this book was amazing. From the very beginning we are greeted with the nightmareish visions Hal sees and these only worsen throughout his lifetime. He lives his life in fear and to take his mind off of it he keeps himself busy training in the tiltyards, hunting and gambling. The writing is atmospheric and clear and his voice is perfect. By the end I was left with goosebumps. Hal’s emotions are clearly evident in the language used. His fear, his excitement, his pride. And towards the end, as the reader, you become increasingly horrified by his dark nature. He is a very strong character. Castor also explores his relationships between his family, lovers, and friends which are all portrayed exceedingly well. VIII makes you understand why Henry was the way he was by showing you what he could very possibly have gone through in his life.
I personally thought VIII was lacking something, it needed more either as a two-part series or even just a few more pages or so because during the last half of the book many of the events in his life felt rushed over. It just dropped off a little. Sure, the older he got, the more relevant it became as his mental health seemed to deteriorate drastically and through a first person perspective it made perfect sense but certain things left me thinking, “Huh? Why was that never explored more fully?” However, the ending fully made up for any misgivings I may have had. I had of course thought about it myself but even so I didn’t think of it and found myself rambling about how unexpected it was. My poor boyfriend always gets the brunt of my bookish excitement.
VIII will be loved by fans of strongly character driven and psychological fiction. If you enjoy young adult historical fiction and the Tudor period, VIII is definitely a must read, though I thoroughly believe that this book will appeal even to those of you who aren’t big fans of historical fiction.(less)
This was my first foray into historical fiction. Over the past few months I had picked up four of Philippa Gregory's Tudor novels, and so when I decid...moreThis was my first foray into historical fiction. Over the past few months I had picked up four of Philippa Gregory's Tudor novels, and so when I decided to take a break from fantasy and finally read one of these (as I have heard good things about her), I went hunting to see if the series needed to be read in order. It doesn't, but chronologically, this one, about Katherine of Aragon, Henry VIII's first wife, comes first, so happily I plucked it off the shelf and gave it a read.
My first thoughts, admittedly, weren't brilliant. Her writing style feels strange to me with the constant switching between scenes and italic monologues from Catalina. At first, this threw me off a little. Though with a bit more time I got used to it. I noticed later in the book that more and more scenes were written in Catalina's point of view and this inconsistency in the writing was a little off-putting. However, this was nowhere near as bad as the point of view switching in the middle of a scene. No warning, no line breaks. One moment we would be following Catalina and then it would switch to Henry VII. This is not brilliant writing.
That being said though, Gregory is a good story teller and aside from the odd writing error, she isn't a bad writer. I did enjoy the story, even if it may not be entirely historically accurate, so long as you know that going in, it is a good story. Of course, a lot of it will be historical fact, but I figure that if I want fact, I will read a non-fiction book which I'm entirely willing to do, especially about the Tudors. This was always my favourite point in history in school and I will always have a soft spot for the family.
The ending itself felt a little rushed. One moment she's discovered she's pregnant, then several years have passed and it seems they are attempting to annul her marriage and then it just ends. I expected a little more, admittedly, and I am a little disappointed, though I suppose if Gregory had taken it further it wouldn't have been a particularly happy ending. Either way, I have given this book 3 stars because it's an enjoyable read and not everything needs to be 4 or 5 stars after all.
As for my opinion on historical fiction: I want to read more. If other historical fiction can catch my attention like this then it's well worth reading. I did keep expecting a mysterious wizard to appear, or for Arthur to appear riding a flying dragon for a while, but I think that just means that this fantasy break was well-warranted! The weirdest part for me though is fully backing a plotline and hoping it lasts or ends, but knowing what's coming not because I know the history. It's like the ultimate spoiler.(less)